What Can’t Wait? Joy

Luke 1:46b-55

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

 

We are growing closer. Do you feel it? Do you feel like you do not have enough time, energy, and patience to make it to the end? The world seems to be spinning a million miles an hour. How can we find joy in all of this? This week’s art reminds us that “what can’t wait is joy.” We have created for ourselves artificial busyness in our desire to make the holidays look like Hallmark. Add to that stress of everyday living. Then there is the whole gift giving thing, shopping and creating stress. Seems like nothing in this season is joyful. Even Mary the mother of Jesus is stressed beyond belief, but how does she respond? She responds in joy and thanksgiving. When we look at the work that the artists have done for us this week, I hope we can see some joy. I am changing the order up just a little bit today and starting with the picture you are coloring.

GIVE US BREAD, BUT GIVE US ROSES

By Lisle Gwynn Garrity

inspired by Psalm 146:5-10 | black & white colorable image

”In 1911, Helen Todd, a leader in the women’s suffrage movement, coined the phrase, “bread for all, and roses too,”3 to advocate for both fair wages and better working conditions for women factory workers. The phrase took on life as a chant in textile strikes and as a refrain for other suffragists. It expressed the heart and soul of the movement. Bread referred to the necessities for survival—safety, shelter, wages, food. Roses symbolized the things that are often treated as luxuries only for the rich to indulge in—the arts, education, nature, beauty.

In other words, women of the early twentieth century insisted that they deserved to not only make a living; they also deserved to make a life worth living.

In this psalm, we are reminded that God provides bread—food for the hungry, protection for the immigrant, sight for the blind, justice for the oppressed, freedom for the imprisoned. And God offers roses—joy to those who find hope and rest in God. God’s justice isn’t just about survival. God desires our thriving, too.

In this image, I depicted two hands. One reaches up in need, with urgency. The other opens in a posture of generosity. A question mark cuts through the space between them, inviting us to consider who is in need of not only bread, but roses too.

Who are the hungry among us? What does it look like to feed those hungering for beauty, for delight, for the kind of joy that leads to a whole and holy life?”

What would it take for us to be filled with joy? Money can only go so far. What makes our hearts happy? What brings a little tear to your eye when you think of the good things that are being done? Things in this church? Things to brighten your neighbor’s day?

DESERT BLOOMS

By Lauren wright Pittman

inspired by Isaiah 35:1-10 | acrylic on canvas

“When I approached this piece, I read the first few verses of the passage until a phrase stuck in my head, “like the crocus [the desert] shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing” (Is. 35:2). I thought I might paint a study of a crocus flower—one zoomed in on the subtle shifts in shades of purple. However, when I began to roll the phrase around in my mind, I felt the need to paint the colors of the desert. The text says the desert blossoms “like a crocus” not “with crocuses.” I almost missed the desert for the flowers. For me, flowers are evident metaphors for joy and a clear testament to God’s magnificence. After all, Emerson wrote, “Earth laughs in flowers.”2 My initial instinct with this painting was to transform the desert with flowers, but instead, I think I needed to see the desert for what it is.”

The desert is often associated with desolation, scarcity, and death, but it’s really a place of surprising, subversive beauty—a place of meeting the Divine. I found myself grabbing paints I don’t typically use—mauves, ochres, pale greens, and dusty pinks. My painting intuition doesn’t often lead me to desert colors because I’m drawn to deeply saturated hues that I find more obviously beautiful. It takes a bit more effort to see the desert as a place of abundance and overflowing worship of our Creator, but I think this intentional shift in seeing is part of what it means to prepare the way during Advent. What would it look like to delight in elements of creation that you often overlook? How can you help the parched places of your corner of the world blossom into new life?”

In our weekly text study, we spent a great deal of time on the passage from Isaiah. We talked about the Christmas cactus. Ours here at the church, the one in my office. Why do some do better than others? It seems that they thrive when they are in the north windows. This time of year, the sun is in the south so it gets very little sunshine. It has more darkness that light yet it blooms like crazy. We all have dark places and this season seems to magnify them. I think of the families that are grieving. These holidays spent without the ones we love for the first time in many years or ever. Spouses, parents, grandparents, close friends this time of year we are flooded with memories of Christmas past.

Yet, how hard would life be without those memories. Maybe the memories are really the blooms in the desert, or on the Christmas cactus. Maybe the melancholy feelings are there to remind us that we are alive and we have lived a life filled with love. There is no right or wrong way to deal with grief around the holidays, but at the same time, don’t forget to celebrate the good. Don’t forget to find joy even in grief. There is nothing wrong with smiling and crying at the same time. We return to Mary the mother of Jesus in our last piece.

A DANCE

by Hannah Garrity

Inspired by Luke 1:46B-55 | acrylic on canvas

“Somehow, Mary is thankful. How is she doing that? How can she genuinely appreciate her situation? Her perspective amazes me.

Carrying a baby is difficult even in the best of circumstances. The physical and psychological weight grows quickly. Society changes its view of you, you change your view of yourself. Like Advent, it is a time of waiting. It is also a time of anticipation, dread, concern, excitement, pain, fear, and confusion.

Mary is carrying a child out of wedlock. Her fiancé is considering leaving her. She has nothing but her word to explain this circumstance to him, to her family, to her community. All of the typical and difficult pregnancy feelings must have been multiplied, yet Mary is thankful.

In this painting, I cast Mary’s hands in a ballerina’s dance. She reaches up in prayer, in praise. She reaches up to glorify our God. She reaches up in thanks for the most challenging thing she has possibly ever had to deal with.

Should I be counting my challenges as well as my blessings? Should I be glorifying God for the pain in life as well as the joy? Perhaps, I should.”

One of the reasons this holiday is challenging for us, is because it runs the gamut of emotions. Just as Mary felt the range of emotions of being a Mother, she also had the new from the angel that what she was doing was more than just about her. Her entire being now magnified the Lord. The child growing inside of her was going to be the Savior of the world. The ups and downs of normal hormones was now filled with the pressure to make the Incarnation complete. There were no pre-natal vitamins to help make this baby healthy—it was up to her and God.

Yet, Mary finds the joy that new mothers find. The season of Advent can be filled with joy it’s just sometimes we have to look for it. Sometimes it is a matter of searching even. When the appointed time comes however, the joy will be expressed as we have never seen it before. Our artists today are reflecting the joy that God want’s us to enjoy. Through flowers and open hands, we can literally feel the goodness of the joy that comes with Emmanuel, God with us. May God’s joy surround you in the closing weeks of Advent. Amen.

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